“You are precious. But you are not fragile.” My colleague at work shared this with another co-worker who is grieving. It had been a very difficult stretch of life with a lot going on and our friend was feeling very vulnerable and not very capable of meeting the challenges that kept arising, which was a real change in her self-understanding.

I think this is one of the most compassionate and true statements that I have ever heard directed toward a bereaved person. It’s not uncommon for us to feel overwhelmed when we are grieving. There is so much going on within us as we try to come to terms with what this death means. How can we manage our emotions when they seem to control us? How we are going to cope with all the added physical and mental stresses? Where is the Sherpa to guide me up the Mt. Everest of demands and activities that are now required of me? Doesn’t it feel like one more bad thing is just waiting to happen. And then you spill soup on yourself at lunch and the tears start to flow.

We feel brittle. Fragile, like we are just barely hanging on by the most slender of spider’s web.

Understanding ourselves as precious but not fragile would be a powerful component we could add to the new identity we are developing. Our human resilience is amazing. Think about how often you arise every day and get the kids off to school, dressed and with their homework completed. Pause to consider that you made it to work and met the obligations that are a part of your day. Consider that laundry is getting done, the oil in the car has been changed, the bills have gotten paid and the lawn is mowed from time to time. We find ways to take care of the mundane tasks of maintenance on the car or our home that seek our attention.

Slowly but surely these things add up. We add new competencies that enable us to find our footings. We add new abilities to manage life and direct our activities. We add new components that become second nature to us. The result is a new identity, precious and strong in a whole new way.